[Coral-List] Are reef ecologists capable of building the complex science needed?

Dennis Hubbard dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
Mon Apr 23 12:55:00 EDT 2018

I think the list in the document sent to the Listserve and Peter and I
specifically is fundamentally realistic. There are a couple of specifics
that might warrant re-examination. The search for thermally resistant
species can be problematic. If the idea is to use these for restoration,
there are potential issues at both the community and genetic scales. The
strength of any reef system (however compromised) is in its diversity. As a
result, approaches that attempt to identify the "fitter" organisms and use
them to create a "thermally resistant" community can backfire. Even if
these ultimately turn out to be more thermally robust, the reduced
diversity would likely put them (and the community they dominate) at risk
to the next *stress de jour* that comes along. REgarding agriculture, the
problem with nutrient-laden runoff extends well beyond *factory farms*.
Algal blooms in western Lake Erie are largely from privately owned "family
farms". Also, it is worth noting that these folks tend to model and monitor
their fertilizer applications, so the amounts going into the lake are note
huge releases based on some sort of "more is better" rationale. These folks
are operating at very narrow margins and every gram of fertilizer is lost
profits. I'm not sure how directly aquatic systems correlate with marine
ones, but my point here is that increased nutrients and the increased algae
they can cause are often the result of relatively small inputs and are,
therefore, even harder to mitigate (folks arguing against artificial shrimp
and fish farms may rightfully argue with this point - but the fact that
even small increases in nutrients can make a bigger difference than we
might all think.

Finally, I will repeat my comments on geological vs ecological vs
management perspectives. I am not advocating one over the other, but
ecologists tend to "count things" and try to come up with what are
effectively predator-prey models (think of rising temperature as prey here,
but perhaps "wolves, sheep, grass might be more appropriate"). Their focus
is on the impacts of the loss of key species, diversity or total abundance
as a measure of declining "reef health". Geologists think of the role that
these events play in controlling either spatial heterogeneity (as do
ecologists) and accretionary capacity. In this regard, our "enemy" is
sea-level rise. The impacts can range from changes in reef structure,
ecology, etc. as a reef lags behind rising sea level. This also extends to
include residents of small carbonate islands that depend on reefs for both
their livelihood and the ground they stand on. One might think of spatial
complexity as the tie between these two disciplines. High coral abundance
and diversity depend on the complex accretionary patterns of a reef keping
up with rising sea level. In turn, that complexity affects the abundance
and diversity of organisms living on an in the reef. Managers take all of
this and try to figure out how they can take all the things we argue about
as "reef scientists" and try to come up with ways to protect and/or "save"
reefs. Being the cranky sorts that we are, scientists feel compelled to
point out all the flaws in any plan that tries to pick winners and losers.

So, in the words of *Firesign Theatre* (you have to have seen a "healthy
ref" to understand this one, "We're all bozos on this bus".


On Sun, Apr 22, 2018 at 12:58 PM, Dennis Hubbard <dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
> wrote:

> No problem, but it will take awhile for me to get back to you. It's the
> end of the semester and I have panicking students thinking about their exam
> in two classes.
> Dennis
> On Sat, Apr 21, 2018 at 11:36 AM, J Hill <jhilltrustee at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I wanted to share the following with the *Coral List* to encourage
>> feedback regarding where I have this right and where I am off base.
>> It is meant to be for the average person that cares about the *Health of
>> our Oceans.* I continue to believe the most productive solutions
>> may be more simple like behavioral change than they are scientific like
>> understanding coral resilience but as Peter says society is not
>> showing it has the will to change so maybe our only hope is in helping
>> corals save themselves via enhanced resiliency. Thank you for
>> reading and I look forward to any feedback. Peter and Dennis, I hope you
>> don't mind that I included thoughts you shared in previous emails.
>> *Thank you all for caring, J*
>> *Bottom Line:*
>> *Society does not have the will to make the behavioral changes needed to
>> reverse sea temperature rise*
>> *So*
>> *We need to study and gain a better understanding of why some coral reefs
>> are resistant **to sea temperature rise.*
>> *Why Do Healthy Coral Reefs Matter:*
>>> * The *Air We Breathe* on Land (ocean plants produce 50%+ of the
>>> world's oxygen)
>>> * *Coastline* Protection
>>> * *Habitat and Shelter* for Marine Organisms (covers 1% of earth but
>>> sustains 25% of marine life)
>>> * Artisan* Fishing (*500 mil people depend on coral reefs for food &
>>> work)
>>> * *Tourism* ($36 Bil per year)
>>     * 20% of World’s* Protein* comes from ocean
>>     * Future *Life Saving Drugs (*400% more likely to provide future
>> drugs than from land sources)
>>> *Threats*:
>>> * *Rising Seawater Temperature* as a result of climate change due to
>>> the relationship between corals and their symbiotic micro algae
>>> breaking down when the temperature is too high. The color comes from the
>>> algae. This is why coral looks white or "bleached" when
>>> this relationship breaks down. The higher temperatures also promote more
>>> disease because these disease causing organisms grow
>>> faster in warmer water. We have lost 50% of coral worldwide in the last
>>> 30 years.
>>> * *Ocean Acidification *is caused by the seawater absorbing the excess
>>> CO2 in the atmosphere. The acidic condition dissolve coral
>>> skeletons which make up the structure of the reef.
>>> * *Overfishing*, fishing using *dynamite* and *cyanide*, *pollution* from
>>> sewage and agriculture, massive outbreaks of predatory starfish,
>>> *invasive species* and *sedimentation* from poor land use practices.
>>> *Science Based Solutions*:
>>> * Efforts to* Combat* the above *Threats*
>>> * Monitoring via the Coral Reef Task Force and the Coral Reef
>>> Conservation Program (NOAA) with use of Coral Reef Early Warning System
>>> * *Marine Protected Areas (MPA's)*
>>     * *Energy *Efficiency
>> *    * *Managing* Agriculture* (factory farming)
>>     * Top 10 List of Actions as presented by the ISRS (International
>> Society for Reef Studies):
>>        > Turn back your heating or air conditioning by at least 1 degree
>> Celsius or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit or replace all your lights with LED bulbs
>> OR
>>       invest in a renewal energy source or electric car
>>       > Keep flying to a minimum: aim for no more than THREE return
>> air-tickets in a year and offset all your flights, for example with the
>> WorldLandTrust
>>       > Reduce your meat and dairy consumption; we suggest eating meat no
>> more than TWO times a week
>>       > Make sure ALL the fish and sea-food you consume comes from
>> sustainable sources
>>       > Watch at least ONE film and read at least ONE book on Climate
>> Change
>>       > Explain to at least TEN contacts THREE or so key facts behind
>> climate change and its impacts
>>       > Join ONE campaign to help protect reefs or oppose climate change
>>       > Organize at least THREE educational talks and/or showings of the
>> film Chasing Coral
>>       > Write to at least THREE local elected representatives about
>> corals and climate change
>>       > Participate in or support at least ONE REEF CONSERVATION
>> ACTIVITY. If you will be diving or snorkeling, learn how to recognize the
>> different
>>          types of damage that can severely impact coral reefs, and send
>> your observations to a relevant organization. Alternatively, take part in
>> or otherwise
>>          support a citizen science or volunteer project."
>>> *Thoughts from Scientists Dedicated to Understanding Coral Reef
>>> Declining Health:*
>>> * Peter Sale of the University of Windsor:* "Business as usual approach
>>> is not going to be good enough"*. Must understand immense complexity
>>> of coral reefs complex ecosystem as to the interactions between corals
>>> and turf and foliose algae. Then we can begin to understand why many
>>> reefs degrade and die and why some degrade and recover. This must be
>>> understood in order to undertake the task of reef resilience.
>>     * Dennis Hubbard of Oberlin College and Conservatory: "This
>> discussion depends on your discipline - ecologists versus geologists and
>> scientists
>>     versus managers. Many believe all of the monitoring schemes are just
>> documenting the obvious, that is, *corals are on the decline and we do
>> not *
>> *    have the societal will required to change that fact."*
>> On Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 2:47 PM, <meam at sdcarr.com> wrote:
>>> Dear Coral List,
>>> J Hill's comments on this discussion thread were quite inspirational to
>>> me, and I wrote an article for the Marine Ecosystems and Management (MEAM)
>>> newsletter on the many ways that insurance (yes, insurance!) can benefit
>>> ocean ecosystems and coastal communities. The work that is going on in this
>>> area is truly inspirational - an insurance policy for the Mesoamerican Reef
>>> itself, getting funding for restoring reefs and wetlands for coastal
>>> protection (as well as their other ecosystem services), livelihood
>>> protection insurance for small-scale fishers, and making illegal fishing
>>> riskier, among others. You can read the article at
>>> https://meam.openchannels.org/news/meam/can-we-insure-our
>>> -way-healthier-oceans-and-ocean-communities.
>>> And thank you all for the vigorous and challenging discussions on this
>>> list. They have many benefits (informational and inspirational) and are
>>> much appreciated!
>>> Sarah
>>> Sarah D. Carr
>>> Editor, Marine Ecosystems and Management
>>> <http://depts.washington.edu/meam/>
>>> E-mail: meam at sdcarr.com
>>> Phone: 202-302-3059
>>> Skype: sdcarr
>>> -------- Original Message --------
>>> Subject: [Coral-List] Are reef ecologists capable of building the
>>> complex science needed?
>>> From: J Hill <jhilltrustee at gmail.com>
>>> Date: Wed, November 01, 2017 12:40 pm
>>> To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>,
>>> Peter Sale <sale at uwindsor.ca>
>>> To Peter, Angela, Dennis and the Coral List,
>>> I respect all of you and am grateful for the work you do for our oceans..
>>> I
>>> am not a scientist. I am a
>>> businessman professionally and an advocate for our oceans socially. I
>>> served as CFO for a Forbes 400
>>> family for over 25 years and am now Trustee for this family. My
>>> professional work is as an Independent
>>> Family Trustee. I have been fortunate to serve on the Director's Cabinet
>>> at
>>> Scripps Institution of Oceanography
>>> and the Board at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke
>>> University.
>>> I was fortunate to meet many
>>> inspiring scientists who are working so hard for the benefit of our
>>> environment as I know all of you are as well.
>>> I thank you. I did not accomplish nearly what I would have hoped to in
>>> those board opportunities which is why I
>>> think the frustration I feel as a businessman is not entirely different
>>> to
>>> the frustration you may feel as a scientist
>>> in the area of what to do about climate change and it's effect on our
>>> oceans and specifically our coral reefs. As
>>> Dennis asks below as scientists are "we just documenting the obvious".
>>> As a
>>> businessman I ask "does my
>>> time and financial contribution to work related to our environmental
>>> challenges do any more than temporarily
>>> make me feel better without moving the needle at all in terms of
>>> solutions
>>> for our environmental challenges".
>>> The common thread is a lot of compelling science and a lot of good
>>> intention but no meaningful change in direction.
>>> In reading the email from Peter and the responses (see two excerpts
>>> below),
>>> I thought it was a good time to raise a
>>> question for your comment especially from Peter, Angela and Dennis since
>>> they have been the most active in this
>>> discussion.
>>> The question is how do you get the population at large to care enough
>>> about
>>> climate change's effect on our oceans
>>> and coral reefs to demand change? I don't think you can do it through
>>> pure
>>> science. Nor do I think you can do it in
>>> a boardroom or by writing a check. You can only do it by focusing on it's
>>> effect on people's financial well being. If we
>>> could effectively get the message out that the declining health of coral
>>> reefs directly effects the general population due
>>> to reduced fish habitat, weakened storm protection, greater damage to our
>>> homes and communities from more powerful
>>> storms, decline in the quality of the air we breathe, loss of tourism
>>> etc.
>>> then maybe we could get the general population to
>>> demand change because we are showing them that by doing nothing long term
>>> they will be negatively impacted financially.
>>> It is easier to get the general population to support an environmental
>>> cause if they buy in to how they will be impacted directly
>>> by non action.
>>> In conclusion (I am sorry if this is too many words) my offer is to
>>> discuss
>>> with you developing a collaboration between the
>>> business community and the scientific community to attempt to generate
>>> greater concern in the general population about the
>>> long term impact of non action so we can be more successful in getting
>>> government and non government organizations to set
>>> policy that aids the important work of addressing the challenges of
>>> climate
>>> change and global warming. For example, I
>>> feel strongly that insurance companies could be effectively educated on
>>> why
>>> this should be important to them because
>>> they have the most to lose financially from more severe storms caused by
>>> warmer ocean water etc. There are also issues
>>> of national defense that are hitting the radar now in Washington as the
>>> military wakes up to the potential ramifications of
>>> rising sea levels and melting ice.
>>> I will stop there and invite you to let me know if you think having the
>>> financial impacts of climate change be more a
>>> part of this discussion is potentially productive. Again, I submit these
>>> thoughts with great respect for the marine scientific
>>> community. I truly thank you all for your hard work and dedication.
>>> "From Peter Sale:
>>> There is a challenge here for ecologists – how much better could our
>>> scientific understanding become – and
>>> also a call to action. And I actually believe we ecologists can do far
>>> better than we are doing!"
>>> "From Dennis Hubbard: I think I am seeing more and more folks questioning
>>> whether our management/monitoring
>>> schemes are just documenting the obvious."
>>> --
>>> jhilltrustee at gmail.com
>>> Independent Family Trustee
>>> Former Non-Profit Board Positions:
>>> Victim's Assistance Law Enforcement Board
>>> Duke Children's Hospital
>>> Scripps Institution of Oceanography
>>> Duke Nicholas School for the Environment
>>> Former Special Field Agent for LA District Attorney
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Coral-List mailing list
>>> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>>> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
>> --
>> 303-810-2020
>> JHillTrustee at gmail.com
>> Trustee, Marshall Field Family Trust
>> Former Non-Profit Board Positions:
>> Duke Children's Hospital
>> Scripps Institution of Oceanography
>> Duke Nicholas School for the Environment
> --
> Dennis Hubbard
> Chair, Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
> (440) 775-8346
> * "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*
>  Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"

Dennis Hubbard
Chair, Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
(440) 775-8346

* "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*
 Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"

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